There are quite a few Fossil related National Monument Sites. Located in Central Colorado, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument protects a large area of fossil beds known for their insect and plant related fossils. Most of the fossils however are indoors, so is it worth visiting? Learn about the site and what you can do here.
About Florissant Fossil Beds NM
Established in 1969, Florissant Fossil Beds in Teller County Colorado has one of the extensive and abundant fossil fields for insect and plant species. Many different insect species were identified for the first time from fossils discovered in this area.
It is one of the richest fossil beds in the world especially for the Eocene era. And also a great place to see some petrified trees, such as these amazing redwood trees that show a time when Colorado was warmer and wetter than it is today!
The site is impressive and wasn’t always a national monument. Many of the areas here used to be private land that charged folks money for fossils and to explore the petrified stumps. One of the stumps was actually purchased by Walt Disney prior to it becoming a national monument.
Visiting Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Visiting the National Monument is mostly about hiking and wandering the grounds. Also learning about the site is definitely worthwhile. The trails themselves discuss the fossils but you are not allowed to search or take anything fossil related from the grounds. Therefore you won’t actually see many of the fossils outside of the visitor center (or museums that house them).
One of the best things though are the fossilized redwood trees. I had no idea these existed within Colorado and there are so many great examples of them in the park. If you are short on time you should at least quickly see the ones located behind the visitor center that is at the trailhead of most of the park’s trails.
Night Sky Programs
I love how a lot of National Parks and Monuments have night sky programs. Florissant Fossil Beds is no exception and has night sky programs generally on Fridays once a month. Be sure to check out the site for the calendar of dates. The site has folks with telescopes as well as discussions on what you are seeing.
These are also the only dates that you can access most of the monument after hours. Although you can also park in the Holbeck Homestead area if you want to view the night sky by yourself other days.
The programs go until 9 – 1030pm depending on the season.
Hiking Trails at the Monument
There are actually quite a few Hiking Trails at the National Monument. More so than I had expected when going here! There are 14 miles of hiking trails and below are maybe check out if you are visiting.
Petrified Forest Loop
Length: 1.1 miles
Did you know the park is home to some impressive petrified Redwood tree stumps? You don’t actually need to go on the trail to see some of the more impressive stumps as you can catch those before going on the trail (such as the “triple stump”). However, the loop does take you to various places as well as the Big Stump and a few other smaller ones. It also talks about the history of the area and the various lodges that were here when it was private land.
Length: 1.2 miles (out and back)
The Geological Trail is an interpretive trail that takes you through various geological periods of the area. There are placards along the path that explain some of the history of the area and give you a good views of the landscape and mountains. The trail climbs a nearby hill and then you can either return the way you came or continue on the Hornbeck Wildlife Trail.
The trail does cross the roadway so be sure to be careful crossing. It does have some of the bigger elevation gains of the trail as well (near the end).
Length: 0.4 miles
This trail takes you through the forested area of the National Monument and through the Ponderosa Pine forests. You’ll see various trees including ponderosa pines, aspens, douglas firs, and spruce.
The trail is pretty easy with a gentle grade and elevation. It’s also wheelchair accessible.
Length: 4 miles
This longer trail wanders through the various landscapes of the park out to the Hornbeck Homestead. The 1878 homestead is in great condition and still on the original location. The homestead was owned by Adeline Hornbeck a single mother of four children
The trail is about 4 miles in length if you do the full circle. You can also visit the Homestead by car which is about 1 mile from the Visitor Center.
Boulder Creek Trail
Length: 3 Miles
One of the longer trails at the park, the boulder trail takes you through the various areas, across a stream, and also to some interesting granite boulders. Definitely one of the more interesting rock formations in the park if you can make it out this way. It’s not super popular so you might have the area more to yourself!
Staying Near the Monument
Camping Near Florissant Fossil Beds NM
There is no camping within the National Monument. Actually there is no parking even within the national monument as it closes each day at 5pm. So for camping you’ll need to stay at one of the campsites close to the National Monument.
Blue Mountain Campground
Address: County Road 96 & County Road 61, Lake George, CO 80827
Distance: 9 miles
Website: Blue Mountain Campground
US Forest Service Campground with generally decent but basic accommodations (Vault toilets, water, fire rings). Sites are about $17 per person. Campground is seasonal (May 20, 2021 – October 11, 2021).
Mueller State Park
Address: 21045 CO-67, Divide, CO 80814
Distance: 12 miles
Website: Mueller State Park
This State Park has quite a lot of options for different types of sites from tents, to cabins, to sites with electricity, and even ones where you can have horses. Prices start at about $18 for primitive, $28 for tents and up from there. Also a great option if you have an RV and need an electric hookup, but they can book up so be sure to book early.
Address: 900 CO-67, Woodland Park, CO 80863
Distance: 16 miles
Website: Diamond Campground
The Site has both Tent and RV Sites (with Hookups). Prices vary depending on how big of a site and ampere hookup. Definitely more expensive than the USFS site but of course this comes with more amenities as well. Definitely good if you have an RV and need a hookup.
There aren’t a ton of hotel options close to Florissant Fossil Beds NM. However, you can find some lodging close by and a bunch more if you are ok with driving a little. There’s also several vacation home rentals close by too. If you are ok driving further, Colorado Springs (35 miles, 45 minutes) has a lot of options and certainly cheaper ones too.
Definitely one of the decent options that is a little bit of a drive. It’s about 15 miles (20 minutes away from the National Monument). The rooms are clean and does offer breakfast. Prices are a bit higher I think that would otherwise warrant but there’s not a lot of options nearby.
Also located in Woodland Park, Rampart Range has a beautiful facility with some really nice rooms. Some rooms are of course better than others, but overall it’s a pretty good experience. A bit pricier than other options nearby, but you do get what you pay for sometimes. Also comes with a pretty good breakfast.
Also located in Woodland Park, but slightly closer to the National Monument. Pikes Peak Paradise offers a beautiful property with lovely views and great rooms and service. Also includes breakfast as well! The place has a lot of charm and worth a stay although often the priciest of the options listed here.
The Site is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. The site and grounds are not open after hours and they close the gates at 5:00 pm. They actually warn you that if you are in after you’re car will be locked in and you’ll be fined. So I would be sure to get your car out by 5:00 pm.
Address: 15807 Co Rd 1, Florissant, CO 80816
Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Visitor center is one of the first places you’ll need to visit. You’ll also be expected to pay the fees (detailed below) at the visitor center as well.
The center has several exhibits that showcase the history of the site as well as some fossils that were discovered at the site. Most of the fossils at the site are of insects and plants and so many insect and plant species were discovered from the fossils here!
Definitely worth checking out, but it’s small and shouldn’t take you very long.
Individuals 16 Years and Older: $10 per person.
I was able to use my Annual Park Pass ($80) which covered my entrance. I’m not sure how many that will cover though as I was solo.
There is a National Park Passport Stamp for Florissant Fossil Beds located in the Visitor Center.
Dogs are only permitted in the parking lot and a small area near the parking lot and must be leashed at all times when outside of your car.
Dogs are not allowed anywhere within the National Monument.
Website: Official NPS Site
The National Monument is located in Florissant Colorado about 2 miles outside of the main town area.
Regardless of whether you are in Colorado already or if you fly, you’ll need a car to access the National Monument.
The National Monument is located about 35 miles (45 mins) from Colorado Springs. Take Highway 24 through the mountain pass until you pass through Divide Colorado. You’ll see a turn off for the national monument for the Teller County Road 1. The Monument is located off this road.
If you are coming from the West, you’ll pass through the town of Florissant Colorado. You’ll turn right onto Teller County Road 1 and see the park on your right.
The nearest major Airport is in Colorado Springs, Colorado (COS). There are certainly a lot of options for flights from Colorado Springs. You should also rent a car if you plan to visit the monument as there really isn’t good transportation to the site.